“Boring Friends”

We know only four boring people. The rest of our friends we find very interesting. However, most of the friends we find interesting find us boring: the most interesting find us the most boring. The few who are somewhere in the middle, with whom there is reciprocal interest, we distrust: at any moment, we feel, they may become too interesting for us, or we too interesting for them.

That is a Lydia Davis short story (yes, the whole thing) from her excellent book Samuel Johnson is Indignant.

Comments

But...interesting people need an audience of boring people that appreciates them, otherwise the "interestingness" is useless. Relationships are not among equals, it's not a problem, it's a feature ;)

AKA the Moth-To-Flame Ratio.

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I am reading this fantastic paragraph to increase my know-how.

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Donald John Trump exactly is your President.

Boris Johnson is not boring. (But he may not be conservative.)

just kidding about our friends the squids, they are the PRIMATES of the sea, very little insect-like them about them once you get to know them, if you did not know that before today, you know it now.

Out of the billions of people who live in this world, there are probably about 10 or 20 who are gifted in the arts of communication to such a level that they could teach a large insect - a greater hawkmoth, perhaps, or a large high desert cockroach, or even a very very gifted over-sized six-legged beetle, to learn a few hundred words of communication.

I am probably not one of those ten or twenty people but I understand the laws of large numbers, and I know an awful lot about angelic inspiration and prayerful virtue. Or I don't. Or I do. I know you think I probably don't. well, ask yourself how well you understand probability, and there you will have Your answer.

God loves us all, start there.

and no I have never ever taught an insect more than a few words.

please undelete. what you deleted was absurdly eloquent, and unique.

I love you all who post here and comment here and read here, by the way.
Of course I am a little Sad that, for example, you lost out on my descriptions of how to teach an insect how to show you that it, the poor little creature, is hungry, or that the little creature is happy, or that the little creature is full of disdain for you (God bless its heart) or that the little creature wants you to know that it is full of joy and sadness at the same time, or that the little creature is full of gratitude and, in its insect way, respect, either for you or for whatever you represent to the poor creature, who after all has only a minimal knowledge of the world, compared to you or me (Compared to your or my knowledge of the world....).

Like I said there are people who are better at this than I am. They will write, with respect to what I am writing about tonight, books or poems or monographs with much more information than I could have given you here, now, on a comment thread that is only what it is ...... and yes, whatever I have to say about Shakespeare, there are others who can say the same thing more eloquently .....

So it is all ok. God loves us all.

Still - I wish you could have read those few hundred words I wrote about humankind's attempts to communicate with our Friends the Insects, with a few comments about Shakespeare to give those attempts context.

the instruction of the ignorant is one of the great corporal works of mercy.

the important thing I am trying to say is that this poor commenter on an unread thread actually is someone who knows how to speak with words of truth ----

not a 'troll'
not someone you should "pity" (well you can if you want) .....

but someone who knows how much God loves the least of us.
Think of it this way, we are born in a world inimical to us ---- as an infant, we are helpless, and, by the way, almost completely selfish ---- and our job, whether you look at it as I do from the perspective of someone who is as close to being as old as the oceans and mountains as anyone you will ever meet ...... or whether you just look at it with honesty in your heart, and no respect for me, not that I care, EVERY HUMAN starts off as a helpless child and DEPENDING on how long they stay healthy, each of us has SO SO MUCH TO GIVE on the road to being a selfless person with love in the heart God gave us in order to love ....

God loves us all the way we are but God loves us too much to let us stay that way (with a few exceptions, granted, you should read a little about Elizabeth of the Trinity or about my second cousin by marriage a couple times removed, Solanus Casey, who knew a thousand times more about bees than I know about cockroaches.

And trust me, I know what peer review is, I know what people who are versed in science think about when they think about what science is about, and when I say someone knows a thousand times more about bees than I know about cockroaches ---- I am giving a compliment that you really have to deem to be true, if you know how reluctantly I, a friend of so many of the losers in life, give compliments .....)

I have had an almost unimaginably hard life - well not much scares me but the idea of really reflecting on how hard my life has been sort of makes me reluctant to reflect on the past..... but I know how much God loves us all, and how much we are able to redeem the past for those we love, if we learn to love and pray, so there's that. Don't wonder why I know so much about the losers in life ......

just be kind to a creature who never had a friend in this world/

Thanks for reading.

(if this comment is deleted, do not worry, my friends ----- I am easily amused. You have no idea how humble I am, and how much I know about communication ..... THIS IS NOT MY PLATFORM, and you are not you, and I am not I).

The instruction of the ignorant is one of the great corporal works of mercy.
It is no small thing to be a friend to a creature who never had a friend in this world....
as I have been so so so many times ....
think about Cockroaches, my friends, think about how beautiful their world would be if people were kind and just and if we were all what God wants us to be.

Never thought of it that way before, did you?

"don't wonder why I know so much about the losers in life"

"the instruction of the ignorant is one of the great corporal works of mercy"

that was trivia.

This is not trivia:
God hears the prayers of the poor.

Trust me.

"We know only four ugly people. The rest of our friends we find very attractive. However, most of the friends we find attractive find us ugly: the most attractive find us the most repulsive. The few who are somewhere in the middle, with whom there is reciprocal attraction, we distrust: at any moment, we feel, they may become too sexy for their shirts, or we too sexy for our shirts."

Get some self-esteem, Fred.

What a sad existence. People must be objects of interest and can't just be themselves. Reminds me of the US.

Indeed, and even if we decide that boring-vs-interesting is the correct way to evaluate people and relationships, it's not as uni-dimensional as this story tries to make it. An interesting economist might be a boring personality or vice-versa.

Maybe Lydia Davis would say that's the point of the short story, to critique such attitudes. It's creating a straw man though; who even thinks in way similar to the "character" in this short story?

I don't know half of you as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you as much as you deserve.

Mostly that's just teens and the folks who live their lives online. When you meet folks in the real world, most folks in the US don't give a rat's tail about what you think of them.

Well, it's a pretty boring story, even for one so short, so it's no wonder that the narrator is found boring.

Is excellent the MR adjective equivalent of a participation trophy?

Excellent comment.

Sublimely played.

"One can be both interesting and boring and switch between the two many times a day."

That's my short story (yes, the whole thing). Thank you all very much for reading.

No.

That's my short story. Thanks for reading it, even though it's so short that you read it before you made a decision to read it, so arguably I shouldn't be thanking you for anything.

It's called "flash fiction". Too short for my taste, but it emphasizes what makes a short story worth reading: a paragraph, sentence, or phrase which makes the reader think. I prefer to find the gem in the story rather than having it identified for me by the brevity of the story. Reading short stories promotes critical reading skills, something sorely lacking. I suppose a Straussian text accomplishes the same thing but for what some consider sinister motives.

I just made some pudding, anyone want some?

"For sale: Instagram account, never used."

Maybe it's uncouth of me, but this does not, to me, qualify as a story. It's a description. Maybe an interesting one (though I can't fathom why someone would be interested in such narcissistic self-loathing), and certainly a description of interactions between people, but a description none the less.

It is a sign of mental health and a well-ordered life, if you can manage to be bored a little bit each day. It means that you can be mellow, you don't climb the walls looking for excitement or reward, and that you don't have unpleasant people looking for you. Be they bill collectors or crazed family members.

Yes, and to some degree, boredom has to be earned.

As an aside, I have a friend for whom English is a second language, who says "I am boring" when they mean I am bored.

Now that is a short story.

Two more data points: My wife has a friend whom she finds very boring. That friend finds her very interesting. And same for my daughter.

Your example raises the more relevant issue that women really need friends and socializing much more so than men. Men just need a family and hobbies or work to keep them going.

When I kept seeing the word "we" in the above quoted passage, that had to be from the wife's point of view. The husband doesn't care as long as the male friend of the couple isn't an asshole.

An illuminating story, that perhaps reflects the luxury - and the pressure - of living in a well-curated, self-consciously intellectual milieu. Most of us will never spend a moment in one of those places where the Interesting Conversations take place. This is how my friends - as opposed to friendly acquaintances - were acquired: through circumstance (my closest few date from the same long-ago period, from the neighborhood and our children's elementary school, our friendship a group affair); and effort, as with the sole remaining friend from college, who was actually not my closest friend from those years, that one is lost; another from somewhere I worked, another a kind older lady in the area who was simply lonely and more or less asked for friendship (in all cases the sustaining effort was not mine, at least not initially - it took me a stupidly long time to realize I might profitably put forth this sort of effort myself). The through line is not, could not be, "interesting" or "boring", but rather, warmth. Maybe it would be different in Massachusetts, but apparently I'm only able to establish friendships with people who have warm and open natures.

Agree. I'll note the connection to one of Tyler (and others) pieces of advice for success - consciously choose people as your friends who are ambitious, talented and/or successful. Partly this is for the networking effects (having successful friends leads to more opportunities for advancement), and also partly because friends who are ambitious and talented will encourage your own ambitions and talents instead of quashing them. (i.e. hanging out with a bunch of depressed losers will demotivate you and they will drag you down).

I can see how consciously following this advice could lead to status anxiety: Are my friends smart and successful enough, or am I hanging out with losers? Or am I the loser and they are going to drop me because I'm not stimulating enough for them?
There are deep problems here as well. If one is always selecting one's friends for optimal career advancement you will be by definition a "fair-weather friend". What happens if you interesting and stimulating friend becomes depressed or addicted to drugs? Do you drop him like a hot potato, or do you act like a "real" friend would, and try to help him? There's a lack of intimacy and genuiine bonding in this approach to life.

I think you're over-stating the advice.

Choosing who to attempt to make friends with is akin to interviewing job candidates. You select who to interview based on a series of selection criteria, but ultimately choose who to hire (befriend) based on a different set of criteria. If you consciously choose a good way to select interview candidates, you'll have a good pool of people with whom friendships will naturally grow.

Or, think of it like dating. You start dating a woman because she's physically attractive, by whatever standards you have (we all have a type). You KEEP dating a woman because of compatibility, shared interests, and the like.

Once you're past the interview stage, you develop friendship organically, and build those close, meaningful ties that keep you from being a fair-weather friend.

But you still have the problem that some people who you could have close meaningful ties with will fail the "interview" by being not rich/successful/ambitious/talented enough to help you in your career.
Just like not dating women who aren't "attractive" enough means you may miss someone that you would have really loved.

Locking people who are lower status than you (by whatever standards) our of your circle of potential friends seems like a rather snobbish way of behaving.

Love Lydia Davis

I think some insight from kidney chains apply.

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